Judging Debates

About two weeks ago, an intern from Wooster High School asked if I would be willing and/or interested in being a debate judge. I pointed out that as an office assistant, and not a lawyer, I probably wasn’t qualified to judge a debate. As it would seem, anyone is welcome to judge these high school students in their debates so long as they judge without bias or prejudice. If you’re interested in being a judge, their schedule can be found on the Northern Nevada Forensics League website.

I was impressed with the students I judged today. They had researched their topics, found decent sources (though one of them used himself as a source, so I must exclude 1 of 4 students in this summation), and in general, presented their position on the topic with eloquence and clarity. In addition, the students I judged were in the Novice category – which means that they could be a freshman, sophomore, or junior – so their efforts were, in my opinion, excellent.

I did feel that some students were more prepared and/or more interested in their position of the topic than others… and I have some thoughts on that which I would like to elaborate on, but for now, I would just like to go over some basic necessities that all debaters should address.

1. Be Respectful

Some of the students would make scoffing expressions when their opponent said something that they didn’t agree with. Debates are fact-based, not opinion-based. Your personal feelings should not be reflected upon the topic, verbally or physically – use your poker face!

2. Stay the Course

Whatever your position is, understand your goal and maintain it. Compromise on some points, but remember your main goal and SUPPORT IT. If you cannot effectively support your position, you will not be successful.

3. Appear Composed

This doesn’t mean just your face, it’s everything. Your clothes should be neat and tidy, your body should be relaxed and calm – NO FIDGETING, and your voice should remain neutral – I’m not saying boring, but neutral, which means it doesn’t sound aggressive when you disagree.


Those are my takeaways, any additional thoughts? Comment below!

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